May 16, 2023

Tech CEO’s Zoom Call Gone Viral – My Take and Advice for Remote Workers

Tech CEO’s Zoom Call Gone Viral – My Take and Advice for Remote Workers

Kristin reacts to the recent headlines about a CEO who made the news for being a horrible boss. Here's her take advice for if you're dealing with a similar situation when working remotely or from home. Plus, a solution for transitioning to freelancing or working for yourself.

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Grow your business with confidence: Try Bonsai, the all-in-one solution for freelancers and small businesses. 


Kristin reacts to the recent headlines about a CEO who made the news for being a horrible boss. Here's her take advice for if you're dealing with a similar situation when working remotely or from home. Plus, a solution for transitioning to freelancing or working for yourself.






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Kristin:    00:00:00    Do you struggle to stay organized with your online business? Do you spend a lot of time on administrative work or chasing clients for payments? If so, try Bonsai. Bonsai is an all-in-one solution for freelancers, agency owners, and small businesses. That helps you manage and grow your business with confidence, schedule projects, invoice clients, and get paid faster with this versatile tool that helps you do it all from sending quotes to tracking time and expenses and more. Get Bonsai today and get peace of mind for your business or side hustle. Try it out using our link in the show notes


Introduction: Welcome to Badass Digital Nomads, where we're pushing the boundaries of remote work and travel, all while staying grounded with a little bit of old school philosophy, self-development, and business advice from our guests. 


Kristin Wilson, Host:    00:01:02    Hey there, Kristin, from Traveling with Kristin here and welcome to episode 207 of Badass Digital Nomads. Today we are shifting gears a little bit from the travel side of location independence to the remote work side of location independence. And I'm gonna share with you my reaction to a very viral news story that was in the media for a few weeks about a Zoom call that was recorded. Basically a company-wide zoom meeting where a CEO went on this kind of crazy rant. And, um, well you'll see in just a minute. And the reason I wanted to share this with you is because I was so intrigued that this Zoom call was leaked and that so many mainstream media outlets covered it. I think, yeah, it did make a pretty clickable headline, but more than that, like the story behind the story here is that I think that we are at a turning point right now where we're basically watching history and seeing the old traditional management model becoming irrelevant and being ridiculed on mainstream media, which is something that would have never happened before the pandemic.  


Kristin:    00:02:34    You know, for all of the heartache and the disaster that was the Covid pandemic, it is astonishing how quickly the tide turned from traditional work to remote work. And I think that this story in particular kind of illustrates and indicates that this is the last generation of traditional CEOs and traditional management and that that style of management is falling behind the times and basically being canceled by media and society. And, uh, having worked remotely for so many years and decades now, it it's, it's just been quite shocking to witness and I think it's just a special time for all of us to to be here. And I think we'll continue to see things changing even more drastically when this last wave of a very traditional CEOs retire from the workplace. And that's why I wanted to share this software tool with you today called Bonsai because it's something that I've been recommending to my Freelance to Freedom students for the past three years because it's the perfect starter software if you are starting an online business or transitioning to being a freelancer or working for yourself.  


Kristin:    00:04:01    But it's also good for you if you're already a freelancer or you already run a small business or an agency and you're looking to grow it or scale it or organize it better. And the reason I like it is because you have everything you need in one place and you can manage multiple aspects of your business in one place, which are things that used to take multiple people to do, or especially multiple software subscriptions. So you don't have to pay a lot of money per month to different companies to have different solutions for your business. You can just have one type of software and one subscription that streamlines things and saves you money and you can also get started for free. So you can try it out and there's no risk or upfront expense. So if you listen to this podcast and it seems familiar to you, maybe you've been working for a boss or a company that has a bit of a toxic outlook towards remote work or doesn't let you work from home at all and you want to start exploring other options for working for yourself or starting a side hustle, then something like Bonsai is a tool that can really help you do that.  


Kristin:    00:05:15    And you know, all of the administrative things that are not the sexy, exciting side of starting a business, but very much required. And that's things like tracking your expenses, emitting invoices, getting paid, keeping things organized. And um, yeah, when I, when I first started working for myself back in, ooh, 15 years ago, they didn't have many tools like this. I mean, this type of thing didn't exist and so my life was just a combination of spreadsheets and things like that. That's why I'm really happy to share with you on the podcast each week some of the great tech and travel services and products and software that's out there today so that you can give them a try and see which one works the best for you and, and what's complimenting your lifestyle at the moment. So you can try Bonsai for free today using ourlink in the show notes. Let's jump into today's episode and see you on the flip side.  




Kristin:    00:06:24    The more that companies try to micromanage people's personal lives, the more apt they are to start taking that side hustle and making it full-time. There's this viral video going around the internet right now of a CEO who was recorded in a company-wide zoom meeting and he's going on this quite bizarre and frankly unhinged rant about how people at his company haven't been working hard enough and people who are working remotely aren't working. The star employees are the ones who sell their dogs and moms apparently can't work and raise their kids at the same time. You also may have noticed a lot of headlines recently about tech layoffs and other billionaire CEOs complaining that their remote workers aren't working as someone who has been working remotely for pretty much my entire career. I have some thoughts on this situation and also some tips and advice for anyone who might find themselves working for a boss like this or in a role as a remote manager.  


Kristin:    00:07:25    So let's jump right in. First of all, why is this happening? Why are there so many CEOs who are out in the media complaining that remote work isn't working for them and calling employees back into the office? And I think this is the direct result of decades of companies and CEOs resisting remote work. I mean, telecommuting has been possible since the 1970s, but it wasn't until the pandemic that companies were finally forced to change. So if they had been adopting remote work organically over the years, none of these people would've been caught so off guard. So rather than having remote work policies already in place, people just basically shifted their meetings from the meeting room to zoom calls and slack channels. And this wasn't very productive and resulted in a lot of remote work burnout and a lot of companies just approaching remote work from a traditional work model that's already outdated and doesn't apply to the economy that we find ourselves in today.  


Kristin:    00:08:33    This traditional nine to five office model is as old as the Industrial Revolution and Henry Ford's manufacturing plants. We no longer are based on a manufacturing economy. We are a digital and service based economy that runs on output and results and not hours worked. And so the attempt by traditional brick and mortar companies to just take their old way of working and drop it into a remote model doesn't work. And so when we see headlines of experienced CEOs speaking out against remote work, uh, what that says to me is that they just weren't prepared for this shift and they haven't been willing toadopt remote work practices and models that work for other companies. Take companies like GitLab, which is one of the biggest remote companies, possibly the biggest all remote company in the world. They've never had a central office or headquarters and they're doing just fine.  


Kristin:    00:09:35    So if some billion dollar multi-billion dollar companies can do it with thousands of employees, then there's no reason why others can't too. So if these companies like Clearlink where this guy James Clark works at, um, if they don't change, then their companies are just not going to be able to compete. Okay, so let's take a look at his complaints. First of all the headlines here we have CEO says many of his workers didn't open their laptops for a month and only the rarest of full-time caregivers can be productive employees. Whereas Vice says CEO celebrates worker who sold Family dog after he demanded that they returned to the office. Oh boy, the first problem is, well how did this get onto Reddit in the first place? The Zoom video was leaked. And that's my first problem with this whole thing is that company-wide zoom meetings should be illegal.  


Kristin:    00:10:32    I think the limit goes up to a thousand people and if you really need to have a thousand remote employees on a Zoom meeting, then you might as well just record a video and let people watch it at their leisure asynchronously or do a live stream or something like a private live stream where people can just tune into the link. I think it's absurd to force people to sit through company-wide zoom meetings at the same time. I mean, come on. So that's my 2 cents on that. The first thing he accuses people of is not opening their laptops for a month. And I find this really hard to believe, like how is it possible that <laugh> in an organization 30 people can just not open their laptops for 30 days? I think it's much more likely that this was just some sort of technical fluke where his monitoring software is just not detecting certain laptops or maybe those laptops are docked and people are using them as desktops and not opening them.  


Kristin:    00:11:32    I mean, there's any number of explanations here. I wonder if he even went to those employees and talked with them and confirmed that that was the case, that they weren't opening their computers because they weren't working, um, before he went on this Zoom rant. But I just can't even imagine the conditions, especially of an 800 person organization where there would be absolutely no communication or accountability with this many people for this long of a period of time. And if that is the case, then the problem really lies with the organizational structure with the company culture, not the employees themselves. If these people truly did not work for 30 days, then their jobs were not necessary. And if it only takes software for the CEO to find out that they're not working and not the other policies and teams and people that are in place to make an organization run, then there's a lot bigger problems there.  


Kristin:    00:12:37    And that is a shocking allegation and I just can't even comprehend how that would be possible. I mean, if you didn't show up for work for 30 days, don't you think that somebody would've noticed like a coworker or anybody? I mean it's just crazy remote work or not. And if his solution to people not working is to make them sit in the office, how is that going to make them work? Either this is a case of redesigning these jobs, eliminating certain roles or hiring better people, taking someone who does not work and then just putting them in an office is not the solution here either. But that seems to be what he's going to do by revoking remote work of policies and putting in a permanent return to the office in place. More thoughts on that in a minute. Something that angered a lot of people is that he appeared to commend the work ethic of an employee who allegedly sold their dog to be able to focus more on work.  


Kristin:    00:13:43    And this seems very unreasonable <laugh> for to me, and also counterproductive. I mean, pets, they give you emotional support, they bring happiness to your life and they also need to be walked at least twice a day. So if you have a dog, at least you're getting out and getting away from the screen a couple of times a day. You're going out to clear your mind, get some fresh air, get some exercise. So I don't see how like working with a dog could be anything but beneficial to your output. I mean, I work with, um, our family dog under my desk all day and it makes me a lot happier and I'm always grateful to have that time in the morning or afternoons to go out for a walk on the beach. So that's does just doesn't even make sense and it's not gonna help people work better if they give up the pets that they love.  


Kristin:    00:14:35    He also accuses people of not working hard enough or at least not working as hard as him who should be working the hardest because he's the ceo. So he says, I challenge any of you to outwork me, but you won't. Um, so that's not very motivating first off. But what really sticks out to me in this is not just his egotism, his real glorifying of the hustle culture that can be so problematic in economies like the us There is a tipping point to where investing more hours, more sleepless nights and more blood, sweat and tears as he says, is not going to result, result in additional output. It's gonna be counterproductive and I don't know how competitive his organization is, but having such a toxic work culture is really not doing him any favors and forcing people to abandon things that they enjoy in life, like raising their kids or having dogs or doing anything other than working is also not going to be very motivating to his employees.  


Kristin:    00:15:42    Something that rightfully made many people angry is his position on childcare where he seems to be singling out women and claiming that there's no way that we can raise kids and work full-time at the same time. And I think a lot of men and women alike would be very offended by that because that's exactly what they do. And those are the expectations in the global economy, but especially in the United States, um, this is a country where women are expected to have full-time jobs just as much as men. We're not living in the 1950s anymore. And it's also a time where wages aren't high enough for just one person in the household to work. So this is a macroeconomic problem, but it also has solutions if maybe he wants to provide, uh, a childcare stipend or even provide daycare in the organization. There's definitely companies that are able to make this work and he needs to take a hint from them before just saying that no one that has kids can work well enough to work at his company.  


Kristin:    00:16:50    That's just absurd. And the US is also a country that doesn't mandate any sort of parental leave or benefits that many other countries do have. And so that's also an uphill battle for people to climb. But I I, I mean, I don't know if he has children himself, but I doubt that he is the primary caregiver in his house if he is. So not everybody can have, uh, a maid or a nanny or a significant other to watch the children full-time while you work on your career and or be a full-time CEO. That's not the position that everybody's in. And so any sort of leader needs to have some compassion and understanding for their diverse workforce with diverse life situations and how those different life backgrounds and experiences contribute to the overall creativity and innovation of that organization. And so I just think he's flat out wrong about that and it's extremely antiquated thinking that is not going to serve him now or in the future. Yeah, so he says that this is a permanent decision and that it's not optional If your employee that lives within this 50 mile radius of the office and they even had to say moving is not an option. So now you can't move if you're already inside of this 50 mile radius, you now can't decide you want to move to a different side of town because that would be counterproductive to the purpose of this decision.  


Kristin:    00:18:30    What is interesting to me here is that this return to the office mandate only applies to that 35% of the people that live within that radius regardless of what their job is. So you could have two people with the same job. One lives 49 miles from the office and one lives 52 miles from the office. And that person who lives farther away doesn't have to come in. So if you are gonna put this kind of a mandate in place, at least make it uniform and logical and applying to certain positions that he feels would thrive in an office environment versus others. Uh, so this doesn't make any sense to me and many of the employees are rightly angry about this, especially people who applied for jobs with this company when they were marketing themselves as a remote first organization that wouldn't force you to go to the office.  


Kristin:    00:19:24    So they're basically retracting that policy and this is also a bad move by him if he wants to recruit better employees now or in the future. Not only can I imagine that many people will resign over this, but from now on into the future, it's going to be very difficult for companies like this to recruit top talent if they're not offering competitive benefits and being able to work from anywhere is being seen as more of a necessity than a job perk. So if that's his outlook and the whole point of changing these policies is to bring people back into the office to help the company, then this is very counterproductive because what is he gonna do in a year from now or two years from now or five years from now asremote work becomes more and more embedded in business culture in general, he's not gonna be able to attract top talent and this is just not a good long-term strategy for the company's growth.  


Kristin:    00:20:30    It's gonna backfire on them. He says, I believe that a combination of some virtual, but primarily an in-person environment is what we really need to allow for the best of the business and the best people to operate. Yeah, as I mentioned, uh, you're not gonna bring in the best people with this type of attitude and this type of company culture, but more so is the hybrid work where you have some of the team in the office and some out of the office and there's no clear policies in place for how that's decided other than just people can choose if they wanna come in or not. Um, that is counterproductive as well. And it there've been studies that are ongoing that are hinting that hybrid work is not as effective or that to be very effective, you have to have really clear, um, policies in place and make sure that the culture really supports that.  


Kristin:    00:21:23    Otherwise it can be very confusing and less effective than if everyone were working remotely or if everyone were working in the office just saying that people are going to be more productive in the office while ignoring the studies and ignoring the science doesn't make it true. And he's also then ignoring all of the downsides that come from commuting, the long and expensive and draining commutes, the physical and mental health issues that come from it, the lack of motivation from employees, the wasted time and meetings and water cooler conversations and a lot, and the extra overhead costs and a lot of things that can be avoided, um, with flexible work. If you're working for a company like this one that is so rigid in their outlook, then you might wanna look for a different job. But if you are managing in a company like this, then it's really important to know that there are options out there. 


Kristin:    00:22:21    There are so many remote first companies that have either never had a brick and mortar office or they close them and they're now fully remote like GitLab, like Basecamp, like many, many, many more. And so if it can be done by some organizations, then it can be done by others. It's just a matter of overcoming that learning curve. And there are plenty of ways to do that. This guy could hire in a Head of Remote work, he can bring in some remote work consultants, he can Google it, how to be a good remote ceo. I mean, GitLab even has a free guide to remote work on their website that you can read. Um, you can go to remote work conferences like Running Remote and network with other remote CEOs, remote employees and remote founders who have experience doing this and know what they're doing. Uh, I I find it so strange that a CEO would just like throw his hands up and say, oh, it can't be done.  


Kristin:    00:23:18    We have to go in the office because we need to be more innovative. The innovative thing to do would be to get better at remote work because it is the present, it is the future of work and not just put your head in the sand and say it can't be done. There's also this uh, billionaire tech CEO who says that tech companies overhired and didn't have enough work for their employees. Quote, they were really doing nothing. And he says he jokes that his company instituted a voluntary work from office policy in 2021. You're either voluntarily at your desk or you voluntarily went to work somewhere else. He said, um, then I'm gonna voluntarily not work for you. I mean, I think we'll leave tech layoffs to another video, but I have a friend that works for Google and I can't imagine her not having enough stuff to do.  


Kristin:    00:24:15    I swear she works 12 to 14 hours a day. Studies show that remote workers actually work more than they did in offices. And rather than these CEOs being worried about people not working, they should really be worried about them working too much and getting remote work burnout. So I think that that works great for a headline, but I doubt that that's really happening. And if it's true that Facebook or Meta and TikTok and Google and these tech companies are just hiring employees so that they can't work for other companies and competitors, or if they're just hiring them for some future projects that haven't been assigned yet, then that's their payroll. Like if that's what they're choosing to do and these, um, employees are having second and third jobs, then I guess that's the way it is. We live in a time of the side hustle and it is completely possible to have a full-time job and also have a side hustle and also raise kids and also have a dog if you want. So the more that companies try to micromanage people's personal lives, the more apt they are to start taking that side hustle and making it full-time.  


Kristin:    00:25:31    So that's my take on that whole situation. I hope that you found it insightful and I hope that it gave you some confidence If you are in a similar position that your perspective on what you want from your career and the type of flexibility that you want, that you are justified in wanting that and that these types of attitudes are on their way out. And if you are thinking of transitioning from a salary job into working for yourself, then I will leave a link to the Bonsai all-in-one business software for you at the top of the show notes and also a link to $100 off of my Freelance to Freedom course, which can help you get started offering professional services as a freelancer in just 30 days. Have a great week and see you next week. And thank you again for all of the emails and messages that you've sent, either sending in reviews the past couple weeks and also the well wishes for my new position working with International Living. I really appreciate it.